WILLIE DUNCAN (@Willie_Duncan) takes up the controls as Manchester United host Celta Vigo on Thursday night.
Manchester United v Celta Vigo | Thursday 20:05 | BT Sport
There was something of a surprise in north London on Sunday afternoon; it wasn’t the fact that Arsene Wenger finally got the better of Jose Mourinho in a Premier League match, it was that the 54-year-old Portuguese really didn’t seem too bothered by the defeat.
Mourinho explained in considerable depth after seeing his side lose against the Gunners that he simply didn’t have the depth of squad to fight for a place in next season’s Champions League on two fronts and that he had, effectively, opted to sacrifice any ambition of a top four finish in order to give his side the best chance of winning the Europa League.
A few United supporters may have taken exception to those remarks given the money that the former Chelsea boss has spent on assembling his squad since arriving at Old Trafford and there is no doubt that his strategy is a calculated risk – but it is, in all fairness, one that appears to have every chance of succeeding.
United gunning for glory
It wasn’t pretty for United against Celta Vigo last week, but it was pretty effective; Marcus Rashford curled home the only goal of the game from a free-kick as United seized the initiative in the semi-final tie with a 1-0 win in Spain.
Celta Vigo, in truth, barely laid a glove on United and they will have to do so much better when they arrive at Old Trafford if they are to stand any chance of destroying Mourinho’s plan of Europa League glory in Sweden later this month.
United were far from at their best against Arsenal, but the match was finely poised until two goals in three second half minutes gave Wenger’s men breathing space – and even the 67-year-old French boss had to confess that there had been considerable good fortune about his side’s opening goal.
United, for all of their faults, don’t concede many goals at Old Trafford and they haven’t conceded many goals in the Europa League either.
Indeed, Anderlecht’s goal at Old Trafford in the return leg of the quarter-final tie was only the second time that United had conceded in five Europa League ties on their own patch this term.
The betting angle
Backing the men from Manchester to book their place in the final, then, appears to be a sensible ploy, but the 11/20 quotes for a home win are restrictive enough and better value may lie in taking Mourinho’s men to win ‘to nil’.
It’s a play that would have seen punters profit from five of the last six games that United have won inside 90 minutes and, at 6/4 (Marathon) it may be worth siding with the selection again.
Manchester United v Celta Vigo – Manchester United to win ‘to nil’ (6/4 Marathon)